When I became a foster parent the idea of "bridging" or "co-parenting" with a biological parent of my new foster child frankly felt daunting and impossible. The word was thrown around a ton in the child welfare space yet I never really understood how to actually do this.
My friend, Kayla Tur, a seasoned foster parent recently shared with our FCAO community a step-by-step guide to starting this process. I found this simple yet effective approach so incredibly helpful to our new and even seasoned families, especially if they never had success in the past.
Here is what she shared with us.
Many people have asked me how I bridge and so I thought I would post my top 5 ways I create a meaningful relationship with my foster children's family.
1. I immediately contact bio parents and let them know who I am and send pics of their kiddos. This can be done with your phone or a google number that isn’t your real number. It can also be done through FB messenger with your main account or a secondary account. There are ways to keep your info private if that is something you feel strongly about. I let them know if they ever want pics or have questions they can message me.
2. I encourage them to do whatever it takes to get their kiddos back and to let me know if they ever need help. This helps them know I’m not trying to “steal” their children so they don’t need to be threatened by me. I try and give praise when I can so that when I need to bring up concerns they are more open to hearing it.
3. I try to involve them and mentor them when problems or situations come up. If a child is crying and not wanting to sleep I may say “I tried this and that to help them, do you have any other good ideas that may help?” Or the child got kicked out of class today for xyz so “I took away electronics and made him write an apology note. How long do you think I should keep electronics from him?” This way I let them know what are appropriate ways to handle situations but also letting them know I value their ideas as well.
4. In the event they were more hostile towards the DHS system, I would be silly and say things like “you know we are besties so don’t try and be mad at me!” I would change the tone and change the topic and keep it light. He eventually realized I actually did care and we are still in contact since he got his kiddo back.
5. Try and picture the bio parents as your foster children down the road. Everyone starts out precious but trauma is debilitating sometimes. There’s heinous cases, but the majority are not. Many have generational trauma with no idea how to parent and have little to none executive functions. You can’t do what you’ve never been taught. Try to teach, mentor and love. Our kiddos deserve for their parent to be taught. Fight for their parents like you fight for the kids so that when it’s over you can know you did everything you could.